Situation and trends
Rabies is an infectious viral disease that is almost always fatal following the onset of clinical signs. It affects domestic and wild animals, and is spread to people through bites or scratches, usually via saliva. Dogs are the main hosts and transmitters of rabies. They are the cause of human rabies deaths in 99% of all cases. Dog-mediated rabies kills tens of thousands of people every year, many of whom are children. The disease is present in over 150 countries and territories across the globe. Up to 95% of human deaths occur in Africa and Asia where dog rabies is poorly controlled and disproportionately affects poor rural communities where control programmes and access to appropriate post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is limited or non-existent.
Because rabies is under-reported, mis- and under-diagnosed, data on human deaths, access to vaccines and occurrence in animal populations is limited. Currently, these data are more likely to indicate the presence of the disease rather than its full extent. With control programmes scaling up towards elimination of dog mediated rabies, surveillance is expected to increase leading to subsequent improved data quality.